Some of Clovis Unified School District’s most needy students will return to school starting Monday, spokeswoman Kelly Avants says.
About 300 severely disabled students of all ages and preschoolers and kindergartners enrolled in the Program for the Acquisition of Language and Social Skills will come individually to campus no more than two days a week and for no more than 90 minutes per day, Avants said.
It’s part of the district’s plan to provide services and instruction to those students for whom distance learning is not a viable option.
“We are eager to help our students who have been most challenged over the past five months begin to again be served on our campuses,” she said.
Clovis Unified schools, like many across the state, have been closed to in-person instruction since last March because of the coronavirus pandemic and high infection rates in Fresno County.
On-Campus Assessments Under Way
The district started conducting on-campus assessments last week, Avants said.
Precautions are in place to protect students and staff from the highly contagious virus, she said.
The guidelines that Clovis Unified is observing were developed in meetings organized by the Fresno County Office of the Superintendent of Schools with all the county’s school districts and in conjunction with the Fresno County Public Health Department.
The plan was to have a consistent countywide approach to providing services and instruction to individual students and small groups, superintendent Jim Yovino said.
The three main goals were following the law as set out in the governor’s orders, keeping students and staff safe, and “getting student learning back up and running as quickly as possible and in the most efficient manner as possible,” said Kathryn Catania, Fresno County’s deputy superintendent for educational services.
“Schools that opened around the world brought back the younger children first. The whole education community around the world is having those conversations.” — Kathryn Catania, Fresno County’s deputy superintendent for educational services
Limited School Contact
Dr. Rais Vohra, the county’s interim health officer, had previously agreed that students could come to campus on a staggered basis to pick up instructional materials and laptops or tablets so they can connect to distance learning, Catania said.
Districts also were looking for ways to bring some students back to campus on a limited basis. Special education students, in particular, are in need of face-to-face instruction, she said.
Once infection rates begin to slow, districts may shift to a hybrid model of partly on-campus, partly distance learning, to keep the number of students on campus low at any point in time, Catania said.
“Schools that opened around the world brought back the younger children first,” she said. “The whole education community around the world is having those conversations.”
New State Policy Unveiled Tuesday
The county’s guidelines were developed prior to Tuesday’s release by the California Department of Public Health of a new policy permitting small groups of no more than 14 students and two supervising adults at schools, virtual learning hubs, or other centers.
The policy targets the state’s neediest and at-risk students for the small groups, including kids with disabilities, special education students, those in foster homes, and the homeless. Also eyed for early returns to campus: English learners, students at risk of abuse or neglect, and students at higher risk of learning loss because of distance learning or who are not participating in distance learning.
Fresno Unified School District has not started on-site assessments but will as soon as the schools and assessors receive the personal protective equipment that the district is distributing, spokeswoman Nikki Henry said. She said the distribution was expected to be completed by the end of this week.
The district participated in discussions with county education and health officials on local guidelines for when students may start returning to school, and how to safely bring English learners and special education students to campus for assessments, she said.
But Fresno Unified has not yet scheduled on-campus services or instruction for special needs students, Henry said.
“With the Governor’s guidance (in July) that counties such as ours could not open until we were off the state watch list for more than 14 consecutive days, we had to focus on a 100% online model, the collaborative negotiations necessary to make that happen smoothly, and have been continuously improving since instruction started last week,” she said in an email. “With this news from CDPH on small cohorts, we are back in the planning stages and need to work collaboratively with our county public health experts, our teams, and our labor partners to execute a plan effectively and safely.”